American Smooth

By Rita Dove b. 1952 Rita Dove
We were dancing—it must have
been a foxtrot or a waltz,
something romantic but
requiring restraint,
rise and fall, precise
execution as we moved
into the next song without
stopping, two chests heaving
above a seven-league
stride—such perfect agony,
one learns to smile through,
ecstatic mimicry
being the sine qua non
of American Smooth.
And because I was distracted
by the effort of
keeping my frame
(the leftward lean, head turned
just enough to gaze out
past your ear and always
smiling, smiling),
I didn’t notice
how still you’d become until
we had done it
(for two measures?
four?)—achieved flight,
that swift and serene
magnificence,
before the earth
remembered who we were
and brought us down. 

Rita Dove, “American Smooth” from American Smooth. Copyright © 2004 by Rita Dove. Reprinted by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Source: American Smooth (W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 2004)

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Poet Rita Dove b. 1952

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Living, The Body, Love, Activities, Indoor Activities, Arts & Sciences, Theater & Dance

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Rita  Dove

Biography

Rita Dove was born in Akron, Ohio in 1952, the daughter of one of the first black chemists in the tire industry. Dove was encouraged to read widely by her parents, and excelled in school. She was named a Presidential Scholar, one of the top one hundred high-school graduates in the country and attended Miami University in Ohio as a National Merit Scholar. After graduating, Dove received a Fulbright to study at the University of . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, The Body, Love, Activities, Indoor Activities, Arts & Sciences, Theater & Dance

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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